How many of the following have you heard when presenting your products and services to a prospect?
- “I’m just shopping around / I’m going to talk with some other financial advisers”
- “I’m happy with my current financial adviser”
- “I’m too busy to talk to you”
- “I’ve already taken care of that”
- “I want to think it over”
- “Call me back in six months”
- “Leave me some literature”
- “I’ll have to talk to my wife/lawyer/accountant/other financial adviser/dog/imaginary friend Harvey, the seven-foot invisible rabbit”
- “Sorry, I’m not interested”
Objections are the sales profession’s version of death and taxes. They’re inevitable, nobody likes them, but nobody’s figured out a way to prevent them from cropping up. You’ve heard all of these and more besides. How do you respond to them?
- Do you fold up your tent and quit?
- Do you argue with the prospect and—inevitably—lose the business?
- Do you flounder, not knowing the appropriate response?
- Do you offer a scripted response from a training manual, and then flounder because the prospect isn’t following your script?
Nobody likes rejection and no sales professional likes losing a sale. And so, even experienced professionals don’t always handle objections appropriately, even common ones they’ve heard dozens of times before.
That’s why there is a mountain of materials out there on overcoming objections. If you read all the books, take all the seminars, order all the training kits, and one thing is certain: you’ll be so busy you’ll never have time to go out and experience—and answer—an objection in the real world.
And it’s not as if that mountain of advice is solid gold. Most sales coaches aren’t financial advisors and their advice isn’t necessarily translatable into your specific perspective. And naturally, the quality of that advice differs widely.
Strategy and Tactics
There are two broad aspects to dealing with objections: it’s fair to call them strategy and tactics. Strategy is the art of gauging how to deal with an objection, i.e. how to deal with the prospect; it’s where your experience as a sales professional comes into play. Tactics is the art of knowing what to say in response to a specific objection; it’s much more susceptible to scripting. Strategic
As for strategy, if you were to climb through the mountain of material about objections, broad consensus emerges on two principles :
- When a prospect makes an objection, be glad: he’s really asking you to sell him;
- The stated objection isn’t always the real objection.
There’s truth in both of these principles, but don’t just take them at face value; a little probing beneath the surface will reveal that they boil down to two golden principles that lie at the heart of selling: You need to prepare and ask questions.
Rule #1: Don’t Fold: An Objection is a Hurdle to be Overcome, Not the End of the Process.
Fact is, objections are part of sales life. And that, it is said, is a good thing. If there’s an objection, the person is listening. There’s a dialogue or potential for one. It’s up to you to make it happen. As they say, the ball is in your court. The fact that you got there in the first place shows that there’s at least minimal interest in hearing what you have to say. Nobody allows a sales presentation to happen if they are not at least thinking about buying.
An objection is a hurdle to be overcome, not the end of the process. When it arises, you may be justified in kicking yourself for causing it (see discussion below), but it’s not a “No.” If you answer the objector’s concern, you can close the sale—at least you have a chance. If you walk away, you don’t have a chance.
Rule #2: The Objection Voiced Is Often Not the Real Objection
Often the prospect doesn’t want to tell you the real reservation. Therefore, it’s part of the art of selling to find out whether the voiced objection is the real one. Never just assume it is. And if it isn’t, it’s your job to find and resolve the real one.
Rule #3: Deal with It (Here’s How)
So when you get an objection, independently of any script you may have prepared, you should be thinking along certain patterns.
Listen carefully to the objection. Ninety percent of selling is listening, especially here. Be sure the prospect has expressed the objection fully before you begin speaking.
Express agreement. There’s something to be said for every objection. Never, argue with a prospect. If you suspect the stated objection is not the real objection, you can also use that agreement to get at it such as “I hear you saying X, but when clients tell me X they sometimes mean Y—is that possibly true for you?”
Isolate the real objection. Ask questions and listen carefully. It’s useful to repeat what the prospect is saying in your own words until you are both sure you understand what’s being expressed. Pay special attention to the feelings the prospect is expressing. Bear in mind how much of selling is emotional.
Make sure it is the only real objection. Ask if there are any other issues and use confirming statements.
Answer the objection. How you do it is up to you, but here’s where your preparation comes in. At the end of your presentation the objection should be completely resolved, so that you can lead to the close
Rule #4: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
If you apply the guidelines set forth above when you encounter an objection, listening with empathy and bringing your sales professionalism to bear, you should be well equipped to resolve the objection and move to the close. But how much better if the objection never arises in the first place because you’ve anticipated and answered it. You should always be prepared; but that means being prepared for objections as well as with the substantive details of your presentation.
Rule #5: Ask Questions, Ask Questions, Ask Questions!
Back in the 80s a psychologist named Neil Rackham wrote a still best-selling book entitled Spin Selling in which he took several contrarian positions about overcoming objections. One was that objections are more often created by the seller than the buyer. However, this is the situation he had in mind. The seller is so intent on his pitch that he hasn’t asked the prospect enough questions to get at the prospect’s needs and desires. So he mentions a selling point that has nothing to do with those needs and desires—and draws an objection..
When you’re trying to sell your services, always remember this ironclad rule: talk only about what prospects or customers are interested in. Selling isn’t about convincing anyone of anything. It’s about helping clients get what they want or need.
The moral is clear. Ask the prospect questions! Learn about his goals and how you or the product you are selling can contribute to them. Respond to the needs the prospect expresses, not those the script has him expressing. Be prepared to throw away the rest of the script!
Six Common Objections
As has been mentioned, a number of objections are so common as to be predictable. That means you can prepare for them. The following is just a sampling to get you started.